This British Coffee Chain Wants Boston to Run on Something Other Than Dunkin'
A measured rollout in the region is the beginning of Caffe Nero's stateside expansion.
For a nation of tea drinkers, the United Kingdom sure has lots of options for coffee—amble down any thriving high street and you'll be presented with choice after choice; everything from sit-down cappuccinos to smartly-crafted cortados to bargain-priced brew at the supermarket coffee bar. And, of course, Starbucks galore, not to mention the dueling, homegrown chains of Costa and Caffe Nero.
For a long time, both offered a taste and experience that you could only find in Britain; more recently, however, the brands appear to been getting itchy feet, expanding far beyond the Channel. Caffe Nero, however, is the first to attempt to make its way in America; the company rather quietly began testing the market back in 2014, slipping a shop into downtown Boston, a shot across the bow, if you will, at the heart of Dunkin' Donuts-occupied territory.
With a design budget that appears slightly higher than your typical Caffe Nero branch back across the Atlantic, the company has slowly been rolling out location after location in the Boston area; now, they're setting their sights on the rest of New England.
What's the secret sauce that gets a Dunkin' lover (or even a Starbucks lover, New England has plenty of Starbucks) to switch allegiances? First of all, there are the stores themselves—they're clearly not independents, but there's definitely been an effort to eschew the cookie cutter look; the casual visitor might not immediately realize they were stepping into a chain that was recently estimated to be opening at least one store, somewhere in the world, every few days.
Then there's the coffee—in well-trained hands, Nero's cappuccinos, cortados and flat whites can be very good. Unlike Starbucks, they never seem to have struggled all that hard to figure out the food bit, and probably won't here in the United States, either—even here at the American cafes, you can start your day with a rustic Kouign Amann pastry, or a real pain au chocolat; at lunch, there are baguettes with fig and brie cheese, or mozzarella and tomato; the bread comes from a local bakery.
Somehow, it's all adding up to a winning package— according to a report in the Boston Business Journal, there will be more than two dozen locations in the region by next year, including shops in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.